This chapter aims to investigate how podcasts can be made to fit into the repertoire of resources utilized by teachers, especially in language education. It focuses on arming the language teacher with a fundamental knowledge of podcasting, centering on its potential applications in the classroom. Podcasts are ideal resources for language teachers, especially English language teachers, because almost all topics imaginable are now being treated in podcasts and the bulk of podcasts are recorded in English. Aside from making use of language-teaching podcasts, language teachers can also incorporate English language podcasts dealing with a wide range of issues to cater to the varying preferences of students. In addition to discussing these points, this chapter also provides suggestions for the practical incorporation of podcasts in language learning and teaching, both inside and outside the classroom. Two case studies demonstrating possible ways to use podcasts in an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context are presented.
What Is Podcasting?
Podcasting is a play on the words “iPod” and “broadcasting.” Podcasts are essentially audio files that, for the most part, can be freely downloaded from the Internet and can be listened to on a computer or any portable playback device that supports MP3 files (Jordan, 2007). When stored in a portable MP3 player, the content can be “listened to as often as desired, whenever, and wherever that desire presents itself” (Gura, 2006, p. 32). Godwin-Jones (2005) calls it the “radio for the people” and the “narrowcasting version of broadcast media” (p. 9). The “pod” in podcasting can be misleading, however. One does not have to be in possession of an iPod to listen to podcasts (Selingo, 2006).
The idea of accessing audio content on the Internet is not new. In fact, both streaming and downloadable audio have been around for a number of years. What differentiates podcasting from previous forms of audio access is “the ease of publication, ease of subscription, and ease of use across multiple environments” (Campbell, 2005, p. 34). Jordan (2007) calls this the “ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added” (para. 3). Villano (2008) calls podcasting a “digital file-sharing activity” (para. 1). What makes this whole process possible is RSS technology including RSS feeds and mixers. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. These are files that specify the characteristics of individual podcasts, including its name, description, and the exact URL of the audio file so users can download the file. RSS enables listeners to automatically subscribe to preferred content and have them directly delivered to their computers or mobile devices when they become available. These files can then be listened to at one’s own convenience. Software that allows for such an operation is called an aggregator, or a podcatcher. Juice (http://www.apple.com/itunes/) are popular examples of such freeware (Jordan, 2007; Villano, 2008).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Podcast: This is a portmanteau consisting of the words “iPod” (from Apple’s popular MP3 player) and “broadcast.” Podcasts are generally freely downloadable MP3 files that can be subscribed to via RSS. The technology is based on the principle of pushing information to a user who has previously subscribed to it.
RSS Remixers: RSS tools that take multiple feeds and re-mix them into one new feed.
iPod: These are portable playback devices that support MP3 and AIFF files produced by Apple Inc. Later versions also support photo browsing and video playback.
Blog: A weblog, or blog for short, is an online journal organized in reverse chronological order where a person writes about their thoughts and interests, including providing links to relevant resources on the Web. Most blogs allow readers to leave comments. Apart from blogs used as personal journals, blogs can also be an effective tool for cooperative learning and research.
Podcatcher: This term is another word for an aggregator, feed reader or news reader. An aggregator is a software application that automatically delivers content to a user’s computer thus saving search time.
Aggregator: Aggregators, also known as “podcatchers” are software that allow listeners to subscribe to podcasts via Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
RSS: Really Simple Syndication or RSS for short, is a method of subscribing to Web pages and podcasts. By automatically subscribing to an RSS feed, content is delivered to an end user’s computer each time it is updated. Content typically includes blogs, podcasts or news headlines from an online publication.